Friday, February 19, 2010

Filthy Austen

At TNR, Ross Posnock on Terry Castle's The Professor and Other Writings:
Castle learned mock-heroism the hard way—above all, as the title essay recounts, by surviving a humiliating, scalding, passionate affair as a graduate student with a self-intoxicated, regal, promiscuous female professor—a “connoisseur, a sensualist, skilled in the arts of homosexual love,” a wounding eventually and partially healed by abundant reading in eighteenth-century satire. The books taught that “[n]othing was sacred…even the grandest and most imposing monuments might be defaced. We were all rolling around in the muck.” She dove in to join her already filthy teachers—Austen, Pope, Swift. Inspired by the “rococo lightness and drollery” of their tutelage, and of Watteau’s paintings and Mozart’s operas, in all “a deep moral seriousness humming away at the core,” she accepted the loss of her “Bambi” innocence and relished the plain facts of survival: “I was fat; I was mean; but I was alive.”
(Plus a question: Harriet Klausner's Amazon review of the book - authentic or parody?!?)


  1. Are you going to read it? I can't decide.

  2. If it's a parody she puts a lot of effort into it.

  3. When Prof. Posnock quotes the NYT line “the classic image of a humanities professor … tweed jacket, pipe, nerdy, longwinded, secular—and liberal” do you think he realizes that, minus the pipe, that's a description of him?

    I kid, I kid. Truly, I love Prof. Posnock. (I should remember to make my google profile private before taking swipes at tenured professors.)

  4. I vote parody on Klausner.

    I was faked out by Castle's sparkling interview with the NYT Mag. I'm skeptical of what sounds to me like her unfair approach to Sontag, and nobody disappreciates Sontag more than I do. I also have to wonder if that crowd ignored her or if she was just starstruck.

    I read Posnock's piece on Friday morning and it's annoyed me ever since, especially his outrageous decision to lend credence to anti-humanities idiocy.